Sunday, September 13, 2009

O' Canada or: The Canadian Kilted Yaksmen, Pt. 5

I would put on a Shatner mask and bang Avril Lavigne like a sea green bartender from outer space. I would mount her like the Canadian police. I would nail her like Jesus on the cross.

Now the end of our tale takes quite a bit of explaining to make any sense at all. Firstly, we were drunk. That would normally do it, but there is something sinister about Montreal which I have not said: eighty-five percent of Canadian bums are punks. Now I don’t mean this to say they are bad people. They probably are, but that’s beside the point. Fifteen percent of Canadian bums are homeless beggars, who–according to one who followed us for several blocks inquiring as to the financial situations of New York City beggars–are all bi-lingual and earn upwards of $200 per day squeegeeing car windows. These people are amazing.

The other eighty-five percent are literally punks. They have stepped out of 1985 and into the streets of Montreal. They are garbed in military surplus and black leather, and the most popular accessory is the steel chain. They have large boots and spikes, and ugly girlfriends and unnaturally colored hair. Some kids lived together on the street with their dog. We gave a couple bucks to another kid outside a bar at two in the afternoon because his beggar’s request was, “Hey, can I get two bucks for beer?” He was honest. True punks are crazy, but they’re also brutally honest. If you’ve never seen the movie SLC Punk, watch it, and extrapolate that into Montreal.

Now these people remain on the streets after dark, as they live there. We, on the other hand, were drunken, foreign buffoons, appointing the least drunk of us the responsibility of deciding whether or not there were cars on the road we were about to walk into. The first thing I noticed was a group of teenaged punks huddled outside a closed Mega-Plex with their several canine companions, while one member of their groups was attempting to underhand a shrub-sized Christmas tree up onto the cinema’s lighted sign. Remember, this was late May.

About a block and a half later, Jay, the most punkish and most outrageously violent of our group was stumbling between my stumblings and Mike’s stumblings, and barring his System of a Down t-shirt, generally looking not very punkish or violentish. It was at this time that we passed a small group of punk-bums on the street. They walked between us, and in passing one threw up his leg back and sideways, kicking Jay’s leg and missing his crotch by about two inches. With a steel-toed boot.

Jay apologized, citing that he did not wish to start anything and that he was just drunk.

About three seconds later he rescinded this when he realized that he’d just been kicked by a lousy bum.

We spent a few minutes trying to keep Jay calm and explain that there were three distinct groups of punker-bums eyeing us at that moment, and that meant about fifteen people who would not be very happy with a trio of rabble-rousing tourists. The only thing that finally placate him was our friend Mike replying, "Jay, no, it's fine. He's a bum. He doesn't have a home."

Jay calmed down, laughed, and then proceeded to mock the bum, shouting, "Yeah! That's right. You're a bum! You don't have a house! I'm gonna go sleep in a nice warm hotel bed! You don't have a home!"

About half a block later Jay fell off his high road and punch a stucco wall erected in front of a renovated bodega. Two minutes later he asked us why his hand hurt and added, “Oh, shit! Why am I bleeding? Haha.”

He asked this all again three minutes after that.

And fifteen minutes later back at the hotel when we wrapped his hand in a washcloth from the bathroom dipped in the cooler’s ice water.

He asked again as we went to sleep, and every time we had to tell him, “Jay, you got kicked by a bum.”

This is an apt metaphor for how tourism works. It’s one thing to gripe about the incompetent tech support over in New Delhi, but imagine how this attitude changes when you are walking the streets of New Delhi late at night and your drunken frat buddy decides to go cow-tipping. This is why tourism will always be a novelty: People like cultural diversity, but they never want to feel out of their own element. Tourist centers spring up to offer all the comforts of Home in the middle of Somewhere Else. Businesses start catering to foreigners and not the indigenous peoples, and, ultimately, you get a whole punch of very angry locals who could quite easily teach French in American public schools, but are completely willing to live on the street for nothing if it means they can kick tourists unless they’re handed two bucks for beer.

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